Day 225: The Resurrection Life

2 Chronicles 35-36; Romans 8:1-17

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 36:15-16
The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy.

Romans 8:1-2
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

We finish 2 Chronicles today with not much fanfare… The Chronicler flew through the last four kings of Judah in lightning fashion – and blasted through the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to end with hope…the declaration of the re-building of the temple by the Persian (Gentile) king, Cyrus.

The Davidic Covenant stands strong. The rebuilding of the temple is the first step toward restoration for God’s people as they look forward to the coming of their Messiah!

Fast forward to Romans 8, and we find one of the most hope-filled chapters in all of the New Testament. It is Paul’s celebration of the gospel and the Messiah’s saving work on the cross. You can sense the exuberant joy in his words as he describes the work of the Spirit in the believer’s life to both save and sanctify.

Let me tell a story that illustrates the beautiful principles in Romans 8…

My daughter, Anne, was injured in a horrible automobile accident when she was 5 years old. She almost died, but God in his mercy preserved her life. She now lives with a traumatic brain injury.

She continues to make great strides in her recovery, but in the first year after the accident, if you corrected her… “Anne, please don’t touch that,” there was something in her brain that made her touch “that.” She couldn’t stop herself. She would touch it over and over and then start to cry because she knew she shouldn’t do it, but she couldn’t stop herself. It was heartbreaking.

In a way, her struggle was an allegory of Romans 7-8…. In her heart, she loved the “law” and wanted to obey, but her flesh was broken and she had no power to fix it (7:22-23). Her desire to do what was right caused her to grieve the brokenness in her flesh. She needed help from outside of herself. She needed to be rescued…

Since then, Anne has experienced much physical healing so that she can now overcome her impulse to disobey a command. But she doesn’t take that for granted! She knows that obedience with a pure heart is only possible with the help of God’s Spirit in her. And the Spirit is so evident in her life! She has a miraculous ability to understand deep spiritual concepts and Biblical truth. She looks to God for help and trusts him with a precious child-like faith. The Spirit inside her is evidence that she is a child of God. Romans 8 is Anne’s testimony!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! (Romans 8:15-17, The Message)

These verses also describe the restored people of Israel. Christ is their hope, and Christ is their salvation!

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Day 60: The Man Who Tried to Outwit God

Numbers 22-24; Mark 8:1-21

Key Verses

Numbers 23:19
God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Mark 8:17-18
And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “[…] Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?”

The King of Moab was scared. He watched as his neighbors were destroyed by those people – the Israelites. He knew he couldn’t defeat them in battle because He had heard of the power of their God. Instead of doing physical battle, he chose to do spiritual battle… He called upon the great pagan seer, Balaam. Surely, the seer could curse those people, and he, Balak, King of Moab, would stand victorious….

Ha! This king actually thought he could outwit the living God as he tried to manipulate the circumstances to his favor. The story that follows in Numbers 22-24 mirrors the absurdity of the Moabite king!

What do we learn from reading about God opening the eyes of the donkey and closing the eyes of the seer? Or opening the mouth of the donkey and watching the seer grovel on the ground? What do you think about God using the pagan seer, Balaam, to speak truth and blessings upon Israel?

Now contrast Balaam’s spiritual insight to the disciples in Mark 8. Their eyes had not yet been opened! They failed to see the spiritual truth in Jesus’ words about the leaven. How do we make sense of all this?

I’ll tell you what I learn… God can and will do whatever he wants whenever he wants. God also has ultimate control over spiritual understanding. He opens eyes to see and ears to hear. He does this in His own time and in His own way to accomplish His own purposes.

I’ll be frank… I’m sympathetic to the Moabite king… because just like Balak, I don’t like my circumstances! My days are spent caring for my brain-injured daughter. This is not the life I signed up for – but what can I do about it? Can I outwit the living God? No. The only thing I can do is throw myself at his feet and beg for mercy. I ask him to open my eyes to see his purposes. I ask him to give me ears to hear his Word. I ask for spiritual understanding and grace to serve my daughter with patience and compassion. I am at his mercy. And thankfully, He is a merciful God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones (Proverbs 3:5-8).

Day 10: The Healer

Matthew 9

Key Verses

Matthew 9:6
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home.

This is another chapter filled predominantly with scenes of Jesus’ healings. Which leads me to a question…

Why doesn’t Jesus heal the way He healed when He walked the earth? Have you ever tried to count how many people He healed in the gospels? He heals 6 people in this chapter alone! When you consider sweeping statements like “He went from town to town healing and teaching,” we can surmise that one of Jesus’ primary acts on earth was to heal. Why did He do it then and not now? We all have stories of people dying from cancer, struggling with a chronic illness, suffering from a disability. Why doesn’t GOD HEAL??!!!

I have an answer. It’s actually a very satisfying answer. I learned it from Nancy Guthrie, author of Hearing Jesus Speak Into Your Sorrow. The answer is found in the story of the Paralytic…

And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men (Matthew 9:2-8).

My gut reaction to this story is usually disappointment – which reveals my lack of understanding. I tend to think, “How in the world does forgiving his sins help this poor paralyzed man? I want to shout, “HEAL HIM! DON’T FORGIVE HIM!” Oh, how wrong I am…

My daughter, Anne, suffers from a severe traumatic brain injury. If God came to me and gave me a choice…  “Would you rather me heal Anne spiritually so she’ll live forever in heaven with a perfect body? Or would you rather Anne be healed physically, right now, but knowing that she wouldn’t be able to go to heaven?” Well, I would choose for Anne to be whole in heaven.

Jesus healed on earth to give us a physical representation – a word picture of sorts – of how he heals us spiritually. When we have a saving faith, we are healed for all eternity. Our current bodies are broken and temporal. Sometimes He heals us physically and sometimes He doesn’t. But really, God cares more about our eternity with Him than our ease and comfort on this earth. God knows the TRUE, BIG picture which we don’t see clearly…

Sometimes, God chooses not to heal because when we are broken physically, we are better able to see our spiritual brokenness. Jesus says in this chapter,

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means,  …I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13).

God loves the broken-hearted, and the humble in spirit. He must have seen this brokenness in Matthew – as He called him to be a disciple and chose to dine at his house (Matthew 9:9-11). Matthew, a hated tax collector, turned to Jesus as his only hope. Jesus lifted him out of his hateful, lonely lifestyle and gave him a new heart with a new purpose and hope. He does the same for me. And he does the same for my daughter, Anne. Why? He is the healer!

Day 2: The Offspring of the Woman

Genesis 3-5; Matthew 2

Key Verses:

Genesis 3:15
I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Matthew 2:13-14
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt.

To me, Genesis 3 is the saddest chapter in the entire bible. Adam and Eve’s disobedience destroyed their relationship with God. Their sinful choice had far-reaching consequences as every human is now separated from God because of sin. But God had a rescue plan…

Immediately after Adam and Eve made their selfish choice, God delivered a shocking promise – that a descendent of the woman would defeat the serpent. This promise acts as a backdrop for the rest of the Old Testament. Imagine the serpent’s response to such a promise! Satan’s goal from that point forward was to destroy the offspring of the woman who was destined to crush his head. In fact, the entire Old Testament can be read as a story of a battle between Satan and God – of Satan trying to destroy the royal family line and God working to preserve the family line from which Jesus would be born.

In Genesis 4, we see this royal line threatened as Cain killed Abel and Cain walked away from God. Who would carry the seed of the woman forward? But God’s plan was always that Jesus would not descend from Cain or Abel. God gave Adam and Eve a third son, Seth, and it was from him that the promised royal offspring would come!

In today’s New Testament reading, we see the promised offspring (Jesus!) in danger of being killed by the evil king, Herod. But God was not thwarted by the plans of an evil king. He warned Joseph in a dream to escape south to Egypt until the threat had passed.

God’s plan of redemption could not – and will not – be overcome by the serpent. Jesus was born! Jesus was crucified. And Jesus will come again!

What I’ve learned

I’ve learned so much this past year, but the lesson I cherish most is surprisingly simple: patience

My healthy daughter was injured in an automobile accident in 2010. She now struggles with a brain injury. I have been impatient with her recovery – wanting her to walk and read and reason too quickly after her life-threatening injury – I haven’t been willing to wait on God’s slow and sure work in her Spirit and mine.

My marriage has been tested in the wake of such a life-altering event. The trauma of losing our healthy daughter combined with the relentlessness of caring for a disabled child has added great stress to our relationship. I want our relationship to be easy again– I haven’t been willing to wait for God’s slow and sure work in my husband’s Spirit and mine.

This year, God has performed the slow and sure work of granting me a little bit more patience – and with it has come… a quiet trust, a gentle strength and a more peaceful spirit. I’m less anxious about my daughter’s recovery. And I trust that my marriage will emerge from this trial stronger than it was before. This is God’s great work in me.

God did not work quickly – He works faithfully, steadily and surely.

His Word is a balm to my soul. Why? Because in it, I find Him. He’s shown me His love, His grace and His patience in the pages of His Great Word.

What about you? What has God taught you through His Word this year? (Feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below.)

I hope you have enjoyed my blog through the Bible! Happy 2014!!

Day 328: The effectiveness of prayer

Psalms 108-110; James 4
(Psalm 107 was read on Day 271)

I’m going to depart from my usual big picture approach and share a personal story which highlights only one verse from today’s reading… And that one verse is not from Psalm 110 (one of the most amazing Messianic Psalms – one in which Jesus, himself, uses to prove his divinity). Rather, I’ve chosen a verse buried in the plethora of wisdom sayings in James. So here goes…

I and my three children were involved in a horrific vehicular accident in which my middle daughter was critically injured. She was life-flighted from the scene. Upon arriving at the hospital, they immediately performed a CT scan of her body. The CT scan showed massive bleeding and swelling in her brain. Her eyes were fixed and dilated.

The neurosurgeon on call performed an emergency craniectomy in which he removed a portion of her skull and inserted an intraventricular drain – both of which were done to relieve the pressure in her brain. Once the pressure began to decrease, my daughter’s eyes became responsive to light.

She survived the surgery, barely. The surgeon informed my husband that she might not make it through the night.

That night, as my husband was lying beside her hospital bed, he awoke to see a friend, standing and praying over our daughter. It was 2am and dark in the ICU room – but there he stood, praying.

He wasn’t alone. Countless others prayed for our little girl. The church held special prayer meetings for her. They called the congregation to fast. People in our community, school and neighborhood prayed and prayed and prayed.

She made it through that first night. Then the doctor informed us that things would get worse before they got better. So many came to see her in the ICU – and each one prayed for her life.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16, NIV).

By God’s grace, our little girl survived. Did the prayers of God’s people affect the outcome? According to James, yes, because prayer is effective. Will God always answer our prayers so quickly and affirmatively as he did for my daughter? No.

Prayer is a mystery. It’s hard to reconcile the effectiveness of prayer and God’s sovereignty. Personally, I get frustrated when my prayers seem to be ineffective as I watch marriages dissolve, children abandon the faith and loved ones die. But regardless of my limited understanding, while Jesus was on earth, He commanded us to pray. And he not only commanded us to do it, he also stressed the importance of persevering in it.

My daughter survived, but she lives with a severe traumatic brain injury. I feel like I ask God over and over again to help my daughter recover. Will God answer all of my prayers this side of heaven? No, probably not. But Jesus told us to pray, so we pray.

I think He knew that in the face of seemingly unanswered prayer, we would need that extra encouragement to persevere. I believe perseverance is key. So regardless of how I feel about the effectiveness of my prayers, I ask God to help me persevere in prayer. Because somehow – in the spiritual realm – in a way that I can’t comprehend… prayer works.

Day 287: The fear of the Lord

Job 28-29; Philippians 4

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

This verse has always been meaningful to me…but it has become especially meaningful in the wake of my own personal suffering…

The morning of April 13, 2010 began in its normal way with me caring for my three healthy children. By noon, a truck had plowed into the side of our van, inflicting its permanent damage on our family. My middle child, Anne, came very close to death. By God’s grace, she survived…but lives with a debilitating brain injury. Our family is very different. In many ways, our lives have been split in two – we talk about life in terms of “before the accident” and “after the accident.”

Job’s life has also been split in two. His whole view of the world has been scarred by his immense loss. Yet the foundation of Job’s life remains “the fear of the Lord” (Job 1:1; 28:28). Job manages to land on this solid foundation briefly at the end of Job 28. This chapter is a bright ray of hope as Job describes his desperate search for wisdom. And in the end, he remembers that “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom” (Job 28:28)!

But in the very next chapter we see Job looking back at his life as it was “before.” This is a dangerous trap…one that I have fallen into so many times. After the initial shock of tragedy faded and my new reality began to unfold, I longed for life to be as it used to be… easier and lighter.

But I found that these kinds of thoughts only sent me deeper into despair. And similarly for Job, we will read of his deep anguish in his final lament, tomorrow, in Job 30.

Job needed the truths of the gospel….the kind of truths found in Philippians. He needed the peace of God described in Philippians 4! He needed to stay on his life’s foundation. He needed to dwell on the “fear of the Lord”!

Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
and to turn away from evil is understanding (Job 28:28).

Day 237: The foolishness of God

Isaiah 22-23; 1 Corinthians 1

Isaiah looks forward to a day when Israel will be threatened by foreign invaders…

In that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest, and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many. You collected the waters of the lower pool, and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall. You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago (Isaiah 22:8-11).

Do you see the irony? The people of Judah were working so hard in their own strength – but they failed to look to the only source of salvation – the God of Israel. He was the one who ordained their plot, and he was the only one who could deliver them. They chose to trust in their own wisdom – and they perished as fools in their self-reliance.

The ways of God are contrary to the wisdom of men. Worldly wisdom says that salvation comes through power. The gospel says that salvation comes through death.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1:18, NIV).

What other world religion teaches that the way up is down – or that the weak of this world are really the strong – and the lowly and despised are really the most valued?? This is foolishness in the world’s eyes! But this is the wisdom of God!

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength (1 Corinthians 1:25).

In God’s kingdom, people like my daughter, who suffer with debilitating disability, find hope in the “foolishness” of God. My daughter might be looked upon as “lowly” in this world, but in God’s kingdom, she is priceless. She is valued in the Kingdom of Heaven because she knows no pride here on earth. In many ways, her disability is a blessing. Her hope is in Christ, alone.

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, […] so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:28-29).

In God’s kingdom, self-reliance is a liability and pride is the way of death. Christ stands as the world’s only true hero and we are left with nothing but worship. We must put off our “strength” and embrace our weakness. Our hope must be in Christ, alone!

Day 225: The Resurrection Life

2 Chronicles 35-36; Romans 8:1-17

We finish 2 Chronicles today with not much fanfare… The Chronicler flew through the last four kings of Judah in lightning fashion – and blasted through the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to end with hope…the declaration of the re-building of the temple by the Persian (Gentile) king, Cyrus.

The Davidic Covenant stands strong. The rebuilding of the temple is the first step toward restoration for God’s people as they look forward to the coming of their Messiah!

Fast forward to Romans 8, and we find one of the most hope-filled chapters in all of the New Testament. It is Paul’s celebration of the gospel and the Messiah’s saving work on the cross. You can sense the exuberant joy in his words as he describes the work of the Spirit in the believer’s life to both save and sanctify.

Let me tell a story that illustrates the beautiful principles in Romans 8…

My daughter, Anne, was injured in a horrible automobile accident when she was 5 years old. She almost died, but God in his mercy, preserved her life. She now lives with a serious traumatic brain injury.

She continues to make great strides in her recovery, but in the first year after the accident, if you corrected her… “Anne, please don’t touch that,” there was something in her brain that made her touch “that.” She couldn’t stop herself. She would touch it over and over and then start to cry because she knew she shouldn’t do it, but she couldn’t stop herself. It was heartbreaking.

In a way, her struggle was an allegory of Romans 7-8…. In her heart, she loved the “law” and wanted to obey, but her flesh was broken and she had no power to fix it (7:22-23). Her desire to do what was right caused her to grieve the brokenness in her flesh. She needed help from outside of herself. She needed to be rescued…

Since then, Anne has experienced much physical healing so that she can now overcome her impulse to disobey a command. But she doesn’t take that for granted! She knows that obedience with a pure heart is only possible with the help of God’s Spirit in her. And the Spirit is so evident in her life! She has a miraculous ability to understand deep spiritual concepts and Biblical truth. And she looks to God for help and trusts him with a precious child-like faith. The Spirit inside her is evidence that she is a child of God. Romans 8 is Anne’s testimony!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! (Romans 8:15-17, The Message)

These verses also describe the restored people of Israel. Christ is their hope, and Christ is their salvation!

Day 60: The man who tried to outwit God

Numbers 22-24; Mark 8:1-21

The King of Moab was scared. He watched as his neighbors were destroyed by those people – the Israelites. He knew he couldn’t defeat them in battle because He had heard of the power of their God. Instead of doing physical battle, he chose to do spiritual battle… He called upon the great pagan seer, Balaam. Surely, the seer could curse those people, and he, Balak, King of Moab, would stand victorious….

Ha! This king actually thought he could outwit the living God as he tried to manipulate the circumstances to his favor. The story that follows in Numbers 22-24 mirrors the absurdity of the Moabite king!

What do we learn from reading about God opening the eyes of the donkey and closing the eyes of the seer? Or opening the mouth of the donkey and watching the seer grovel on the ground? What do you think about God using the pagan seer, Balaam, to speak truth and blessings upon Israel?

Now contrast Balaam’s spiritual insight to the disciples in Mark 8. Their eyes had not yet been opened! They failed to see the spiritual truth in Jesus’ words about the leaven. How do we make sense of all this?

I’ll tell you what I learn… God can and will do whatever he wants whenever he wants. God also has ultimate control over spiritual understanding. He opens eyes to see and ears to hear. He does this in His own time and in His own way to accomplish His own purposes.

I’ll be frank… I’m sympathetic to the Moabite king… because just like Balak, I don’t like my circumstances! My days are spent caring for my brain-injured daughter. This is not the life I signed up for – but what can I do about it? Can I outwit the living God? No. The only thing I can do is throw myself at his feet and beg for mercy. I ask him to open my eyes to see his purposes. I ask him to give me ears to hear his Word. I ask for spiritual understanding and grace to serve my daughter with patience and compassion. I am at his mercy. And thankfully, He is a merciful God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones (Proverbs 3:5-8).